BAMF Health to advance cancer care with new scanner

Equipment will be used for quick, total-body scans so treatment can start sooner.
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The PET-CT scanner was delivered to BAMF Health’s downtown facility earlier this month. Photo by Kayleigh Fongers

A recent delivery of groundbreaking technology will enable a Grand Rapids-based precision medicine company to make strides in detecting and treating cancer.

BAMF Health earlier this month received a total-body PET-CT scanner at its facility, located within Michigan State University’s Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building downtown.

Founded in 2018, BAMF — Bold Advanced Medical Future — is working to achieve true, intelligence-based precision medicine. The PET-CT scanner will be used to perform quick, total-body scans of patients to detect cancer.

While PET technology has been used for research purposes at other facilities around the world, the PET-CT scanner here will be used for clinical application.

Furthermore, the device’s full-body, singular bed capabilities make it the first clinical scanner of its kind.

Anthony Chang. Courtesy Grand Rapids Chamber

“We are going to bring the world’s most advanced technology to patients and make it affordable and accessible to everybody who needs it,” said BAMF founder and CEO Dr. Anthony Chang while addressing a crowd of staff members, supporters and media personnel at the scanner delivery event.

The multimillion-dollar device now housed on Medical Mile was manufactured by Houston-based United Imaging. It spans 2 meters in length, consisting of eight, 24-centimer PET gantries.

PET, or positron emission tomography, is a type of imaging technology that uses small amounts of radioactive substances known as radiotracers to measure processes within the body. In this case, the imaging is combined with CT technology to provide more precise information and more exact diagnoses.

“We are thrilled to see what will come from this,” said David Bradley, vice president of sales and business development at United Imaging. “The ability to have technology not just for the highest few people but for everyone is something that aligns with our mission.”

Unlike other PET scanners, which can take up to 45 minutes to produce a scan, the new clinical PET-CT works more efficiently.

“This is taking treatment for patients with cancer to the next level,” said Dr. Brandon Mancini, medical director at BAMF. “This scanner is 40 times more sensitive than your average PET scanner, and the scan itself can be completed in one-40th of the time of the average PET scanner.”

Along with a shorter scan delivery, the PET-CT scanner will enable BAMF to detect smaller tumors than what other technology allows, leading to a faster diagnosis. Patients also will experience 40 times less radiation with this type of device, compared to other PET technology.

The scanner will reside within BAMF’s molecular imaging clinic.

In addition, BAMF’s facility is set to operate a radiopharmacy and a theranostics clinic as it works to achieve artificial intelligence-enabled technology.

The radiopharmacy contains two PETtrace 890 cyclotrons, which are particle accelerators used to produce radioisotopes needed for the PET imaging. BAMF purchased the two machines from GE Healthcare in 2021.

The theranostics clinic incorporates a newer field of medicine combining therapeutics and diagnostics. Its application involves using one radioactive drug to diagnose and a second to deliver therapy, and BAMF expects to provide 8,000 treatments annually using this approach.

Once the facility officially opens this summer, BAMF will focus on treating patients specifically with prostate and neuroendocrine cancer, which are currently FDA-approved for this type of care. 

Within a year, the company also expects to diagnose and guide treatment for other types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), traumatic brain injury, PTSD, depression, chronic pain and endometriosis.

The fully operational facility could have the potential within three to five years to diagnose and begin treatment for cancer within the same day, according to BAMF leadership.

The work won’t stop in Michigan, though.

Within the same three- to-five-year time frame, BAMF also plans to open as many as a dozen flagship facilities across the U.S. These locations will secure partnerships with National Cancer Institute-designated hospitals and academic medical centers to create an effective clinical trial platform.

In addition to the scope of these medical and technological advancements, Mancini and the BAMF team recognize the overall impact this will have on patient experience.

“From a patient perspective, patients are used to going to a clinic and spending hours there to get a PET scan or go through some type of medical procedure,” Mancini said. “The ability to make sure we bring the best to them and to minimize the time away from their family and doing the things they love … that’s what it all comes down to. We’re not just having the best scanner or the best experience, but also the least amount of time, which is quite meaningful.”

For Doug Meijer, co-chair of the Meijer supermarket chain and the major donor behind the building’s name, the significance of the new technology reflects his own experience with prostate cancer treatment.

“It was five years ago when (Chang) accompanied my wife and I to Germany for my first round of cancer treatment,” Meijer said. “And we were in the hospital and talking with the doctor and thinking that it doesn’t seem right that we have to travel to Germany for this treatment.”

Meijer and Chang decided to bring the technology to the U.S. to make it more accessible, and developers broke ground on the innovation building in 2019 after Meijer and the Meijer Foundation contributed $19.5 million to the project. 

Three years later, Meijer said he couldn’t be prouder of what is happening.

“This becoming a reality is beyond my wildest dreams, and it’s all because of Dr. Chang and this team,” Meijer said. 

Chang credits the success of BAMF to his team.

“BAMF’s story is not that of just a clinic or of health care — it’s the spirit of a group of people knowing there’s a difference between things that are impossible and things are very hard,” Chang said. “As long as things are hard, we are the group of people who will roll up our sleeves and make things happen.”

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